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Why the unfair scholarships for Muslims will lead to more terrorism

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It appears that the central government’s decision to allot 2.3 crore scholarships to Muslim children was carried out without fully considering a cost-to-benefit analysis and the decision’s long-term implications. Indian taxpayers have also subsidized two universities with Muslim character: Jamia Millia Islamia University and Aligarh Muslim University.

Yet no deed of goodwill goes unpunished. The majority community is at the receiving end of stone-pelting by the Muslim minority. Reason? Apparently, the majority community irked the minority by taking religious processions through its neighborhoods.

These widespread stone-pelting incidents are far from conveying the intention to coexist. If one doubts that, look around in the immediate neighborhood. From the Muslim-majority lands, most Hindus have been driven out to India. One may view Pakistan and Bangladesh as nearly 100% Muslim reservation lands. After driving out Hindus, even the Muslim-majority Kashmir valley became almost 100% Muslim reserved land.

These scholarships make the Muslims the privileged community not only in Islamic Pakistan and Islamic Bangladesh but also in secular Hindu-majority India! This ought to be grossly unfair as well as absurd.

There is such a thing called critical risk management, especially on existential matters. The country must assess the existential risk arising from the minority community’s intolerance vis-à-vis the majority. This is not to say that Indian Muslims are inherently intolerant people, but the circumstances that have driven them to be so must be understood and addressed.

First, a study of slain militants in Pakistan found that “poverty, limited education and time spent at a madrassa are poor predictors for determining either support for terrorism or participation in terrorism in Pakistan.” And that “some of Pakistan’s best‐educated young men are being dispatched to die in this unending conflict with India.” Another study of slain Pakistani militants who had fought in Afghanistan and India reached similar conclusions.

The above data is clearcut evidence that educated Muslims in a radicalized community are more prone to supporting and participating in violent extremism. But why is the data from Pakistan relevant to India? For one thing, India’s most literate state, Kerala, has produced the most number of ISIS terrorists. Importantly, it is because a good measure of radicalisation of Muslims in these two nations is comparable.

Public support for Sharia law is one such measure for the following reason: From my recent research involving Muslim communities in 20 nations, in 10 countries where the majority of the Muslims favoured Sharia law, jihadist groups had a strong presence in eight nations and a weak presence in the rest of the two. Among the Muslims polled, the support for Sharia law in Pakistan was 84%, while it was a comparable 74% in India. Generally, the public support for Sharia goes hand-in-hand with its support for clerics.

All of the above data undercut the wisdom of granting scholarships and reservations to Muslims. Besides, on the flip side, these opportunities would otherwise benefit the majority community. Consequently, India will likely experience a double whammy situation: worsening Muslim extremism and the weakening majority community.

To ignore this grim reality is nothing short of suicidal for the Indian nation.

The terrorist acts of stone-pelting by mobs stationed in mosques tell us that clerics constitute a dominant force behind extremism. This is not to say that all clerics are encouraging terrorism, but as I argued in my previous article, the Deoband-educated clerics, who constitute about 90% of the clerical cadre in India, could do so.

Economically disadvantaged people need help, but not when they are under the grip of violent extremism and are intolerant. A sensible policy would be to help the Muslim minorities in India by first liberating them from the forces that have made them intolerant and socioeconomically disadvantaged.

The central and state governments would be well-advised to retract all scholarships and reservations given to the minority and remove the Muslim character associated with state-funded Muslim institutions. Such a quid pro quo also incentivises the community to address its radicalised self.

Moorthy Muthuswamy is a US-based physicist and a scholar of radicalism

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